Title: 7&7–Anthology of Virtue and Vice
Author(s): Andrea Speed, Brandon Witt, Sean Michael, J. Tullos Hennig, Carol Cummings, Rick R. Reed, John Inman, Rhys Ford, Clare London, Pearl Love, Jamie Fessenden, J. S. Cook, Amy Rae Durresson, and Serena Yates
Genre: LGBT Anthology
Publisher: DSP Publications
Humankind possesses a dual nature, the ability to rise to the brightest heights—or sink to the darkest and most perverse depths.
What inspires some to reach the pinnacles of virtue while others cannot resist the temptations of vice? Is it something innate, or a result of destiny and circumstance?
Delve into the minds and spirits of saints and sinners alike with a collection of stories that explore the call toward good or evil—and the consequences of answering it. For while rewards certainly await the righteous, there are also pleasures to be found in the darkness. Venture off the expected path with some of the most innovative voices in LGBT speculative fiction as they present their unique takes on the classic vices and virtues.
For this review, I’ll speak briefly of the anthology as a whole, and then I’ll talk about a few stories I enjoyed. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the others as well, but sometimes it’s hard to write a significant amount on shorter works.
The anthology was put out by Dreamspinner’s non-Romance imprint, DSP Publications, which is supposed to represent LGBTQ genre fiction, unlike Dreamspinner’s main line, which is majorly M/M Romance. The bulk of these stories; however, had gay male protagonists and frankly so do most of the stories currently in the imprint. This is acceptable, I suppose, and certainly follows very basic supply and demand principles, but I there could have been more representation since the imprint is now over a year old and it would have been nice to have more diversity and breadth for readers new to the line. That being said, I enjoyed the anthology and I thought the theme–vice and virtue–was intriguing.
The Dark of the Sun by Amy Rae Durresson
I was pulled immediately into our protagonist, Tomal, a fallen priest who lost his husband years ago. I appreciated the priest was older and in many ways still embarking upon the journey of his faith in God, the world, and people. I enjoyed his sense of discovery and wonder. There was a fascinating feel of reluctant movement in the piece, of Tomal climbing the mountain to do his duty. You’d think that he’d be the one to weaken first, but he was steadfast. He may have feel as if he has lost his faith, but I had an inkling it was with him the whole time, especially when he couldn’t see it in himself.
Prudence for Fools by Sean Michael
One of my favorite stories in the anthology–I couldn’t put it down! For a short story it had a ton of worldbuilding, which made me wonder if this was a part of a larger project (if it is, someone tell me). For a short story there was a surprising depth to our protagonist, Del, which kept me glued to the page. I also appreciated the moments of levity in otherwise horrible situations. I very much enjoyed my brief romp in Michael’s world and I plan to play around in his others.
The Rendering by John Inman
I have to admit I saw where this was going from the get-go. Though I liked our main character, Otis, I was a bit disappointed how the idea of gluttony as a sin was taken literally–as in gluttony of someone eating too much food. I couldn’t see the sin in someone being fat, and I think this story could have used a fresher spin on the idea. It almost felt as if the horrible things that happened to Otis were deserved, which made me terribly sad, and because I thought the tone was supposed to be more in line with a horror/thriller, the mournful edge threw me out of the story.
Hope by Rick R. Reed
I really enjoyed this. I have to admit it started off a bit odd, and maybe a bit inconsistent. Todd sees a ghost in his house, which you would assume would freak him out, but Todd is sort of… resigned to it. As the story moves on and we learn more of Todd’s life everything falls into place. The poor guy not only lost his mother, but he’s also dealing with his own failing health. It’s almost as if his reaction to the ghost was so mild because he doesn’t feel as if he has anything left to lose. Though it starts off oddly, and the middle is depressing, I thought the story ended on a rather happy note. There’s nothing like the denizens of the afterlife to make you appreciate living.
Train to Sevmash by Jamie Fessenden
I love a good spy story and I’ll take any excuse to have a gay James Bond in my life (or gayish). This piece was sweet, sexy, and just a bit dangerous. Colby was a fun protagonist, but I ultimately enjoyed Veselov’s secondary characterization the most. I could almost see what Veselov was thinking through Colby’s eyes, but Veselov still astonished me again and again. Brilliant storytelling. The ending was ultimately surprising but inevitable, a stupendous feat in literature.
Red Light Special by Rhys Ford
I needed a hearty guffaw after all the seriousness, and this story delivered. Humor is hard to do, especially in speculative fiction, which made it all the better. Ford writes these prickly half-elf characters in urban fantasy settings that are frankly to die for with their wit and antics. Even at their gloomiest they crack me up. Her characters are definitely people I’d want to know in real life (but they probably wouldn’t give me the time of day).
Couches of Fabric and Snow by Brandon Witt
I have read some amazing love stories by Witt, but I’m also getting used to his obsession with darkness, especially concerning character choice. By the end of a novel, the protagonist can either change for the better and become their best self, or stay the same and perpetuate their troubles. Witt likes the trouble makers. Even though I will admit I grew a bit despondent, I ultimately felt this story could be inspiring for those who want to soldier on in life, and at the same time it could be a solace for those who are done fighting. This idea of sacrifice is perhaps maudlin, but it also struck me as rather beautiful.
Dreamspinner Press–Where Dreams Come True… International publishers of quality gay romantic fiction since 2007. http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com
DSP Publications–Off the Beaten Path. Worth the Journey. http://www.dsppublications.com
Harmony Ink Press–LGBTQ+ Young Adult Fiction. http://www.harmonyinkpress.com
Originally Reviewed for Queer Sci Fi: